During this hectic shopping season, we’ve been bombarded with ads for video games, board games, interactive games like Foosball—as well as nonstop TV sports. They recalled for me the inscription on playwright John Gay’s tombstone:
Life is a game and all things show it.
I thought so once and now I know it.
Our lives, in fact, do spin out through a series of games, each with its own language, rules, conditions, uniforms and goals. Some obvious examples are the student game (pursuit of knowledge), the Wall-Street game (wealth), war games (domination), political games (power), the married-with-children game (family)—and yes, we seekers must include the contemplative journey game (enlightenment or mystical union).
This last insight in particular underscores our absolute need for surrender in the spiritual quest, for until we finally release the journey itself, we will never glimpse the ultimate reality hiding behind it. Until that happens, of course, we play our hands as well and respectfully as we can, but we must remember always that the ego is a participant through most of the game’s twists and turns. It would happily announce to all and sundry (albeit humbly) that it has at last achieved the empty state of nirvana. No, we must in the end let go of all these encumbrances, of the small self, the journey and the wish for union itself, and yield to Love on Its own terms.
Truly, this pilgrimage is the game of life, and why Divinity requires us to play, who knows? Apart from any speculation, however, this trek across the terrestrial globe is the reality of our existence. If nothing else, it’s a marvelous adventure. The quest for the homeland literally gives meaning and purpose and enjoyment to our time here.
“From where do you come?” someone asked the holy Rabia.
“From the other world,” she replied.
“And where are you going?”
“To the other world”
“What are you doing in this world?”
“I am making a game of it.”
Laughter, or at least bemusement, seems after all to be the healthiest response to life’s serious pretensions, oddness and absurdities.
—Adapted from Mystic Mountain: The Ascent to Love
-John R. Sack